Right-wing voices in Japan calling for re-armament are gaining ground - a trend that solidified with December’s landslide election of the hawkish Shinzo Abe as prime minister. Abe has proposed the first increase in Japan’s Defense budget in 11 years, citing repeated Chinese incursions into disputed waters.
In Melbourne, Ren explained that Beijing’s military buildup was purely aimed at preventing a repetition of earlier foreign aggression that China had been too weak to resist. “To prevent a repetition of this historical tragedy, China has no other choice but to develop proper military strength,” he said.
As PLA firepower mounts, China’s political leaders will need to be careful the uniformed hawks don’t go too far and increase the risk of conflict, security experts said. It might be difficult to make concessions or compromise in negotiations over disputed territory once public opinion gets whipped up.
“As nationalism is a double-edged sword,” says Shen Dingli, a security expert at Shanghai’s Fudan University, “the government could get hurt.”
(Reporting By David Lague; additional reporting by Charlie Zhu; Editing by Bill Tarrant and Michael Williams)